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70 to 85% of new food products do not survive more than a year on shelves, according to studies. This is why R&D is crucial for companies in this sector.

Research and development: the crux of the matter in food

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Companies must do a lot of research and development to find the perfect balance between the taste and nutritional qualities of their products.

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Foods with too high a sugar, sodium and saturated fat content will have to clearly display this on their packaging as of January 1, 2026. This obligation from the federal government pushes companies to invest significantly in research and development (R& ;D) in order to find the perfect balance between the taste and nutritional qualities of their products. The grocery store wanted to know more about this process.

Montreal company Still Good, which makes biscuits from food waste, devotes a quarter of its total budget to R&D.

Development is very long, because you have to do trial and error. It's a bit like a child starting to walk; he falls, but afterwards he learns how to hold himself to move forward, explains David Briffaud, director of operations for the company.

Thanks to government subsidies, Still Good can benefit from the expertise of the Institute of Packaging Technology and Food Engineering (ITEGA), a research and development service integrated into Collège Maisonneuve which supports companies in their innovation process .

Companies that are supported in all stages of their development have more great chance of entering the market and ensuring growth thereafter.

A quote from Zoraïde Bentellis, Director, Institute of Packaging Technology and Food Engineering

New food labeling regulations are forcing many companies to change their product recipes. These companies do not want to display on their packaging that the contents are high in saturated fat, sugar or sodium.

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An example of a Still Good product with the new symbol which must be affixed in 2026 if the product has high in fat, sugar or sodium.

We wouldn't want our products to be marked with a big window on the front because that will push away a lot of customers, agrees David Briffaud, director of operations at Still Good.

The Montreal company must find a balance between taste, nutritional values, shelf life and safety of the product. We have the impression that it's easy to make a biscuit, but in fact, there are lots of steps, underlines Mr. Briffaud.

The Agropur dairy cooperative must also comply with the new regulations.

In February we released the latest addition to the family, Natrel Plus Vanille. It was designed in view of the new government labeling. We reduced sugars and managed to have a fat level that meets standards, explains Nathalie Vigeant, head of innovation and development of fresh products at Agropur.

While we must respect standards and regulations that are constantly changing, we must above all satisfy the consumer.

It is not simply about say that you have to cut out sugar. Yes, it will be less sweet on the list of ingredients, but the consumer will not benefit from it. He will say that the taste is not there, adds Ms. Vigeant.

The time and money invested in research and development are intended to avoid commercial failure.

In recent years, we have had to x27;adapt, do a lot more research and be sure to launch products that have value for our consumers. It used to be that 1 in 10 products worked. There, it’s perhaps 1 in 5, notes Annie Rochefort, vice-president of the fresh produce category at Agropur.

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To extend the life of its biscuits, Still Good is testing different packaging.

Zoraïde Bentellis, director of ITEGA, notes that research and development concerns not only the food products themselves, but also their transformation process and their packaging .

Still Good seeks to extend the life of its cookies without resorting to additives. This lifespan is very important for a company. The longer it is, the easier it is to produce, says David Briffaud, who dreams of conquering a larger market.

Packaging can play an important role in the preservation of food products, but more.

Packaging has several functions. It protects the food, but it is first and foremost the first contact with the customer, so it has a marketing function, explains Zoraïde Bentellis, who must also assess the environmental impact of the materials used.

Large companies like Agropur have their own R&D laboratories.

The process starts with an idea : Without having a product, we will first survey the consumer, test the idea, see if the concept is good, indicates Nathalie Vigeant.

The idea is then developed and tested in the laboratory. For example, if we develop a chocolate milk, we will test different types of cocoa, illustrates Ms. Vigeant. How much protein do I use? Do we want it to be fatty? And if things go well, we move on to the next step, to the pilot plant.

On average, it takes five or six years of hard work for the entrepreneur to get to the stage of producing a first batch of products.

A quote from Zoraïde Bentellis, Director, Institute of Packaging Technology and Food Engineering

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The Agropur dairy cooperative team carries out numerous tests in its R&D laboratories.

Agropur has a micro-factory where it can test secret products before they go to the production plant. A very useful tool to avoid big losses.

Today, we had a little problem: the research and development product was too viscous, not quite ready. We lost 40 kg of product. But if we had gone directly to the factory, we would have lost 4,000, points out Nathalie Vigeant. Sometimes, in research and development, it doesn't work the first time… but you end up succeeding!

And to know if a product will be successful, you have to be patient. It takes at least a year for us to be able to tell if the product works or doesn't work, estimates Annie Rochefort.

Without research and development , we would probably stay for years with the same products, without innovating, without meeting the needs of our consumers, which is the key in the industry, she adds, recalling that customers have the last word.

With information from Julie Perreault

The report by Johane Despins, Julie Perreault and François Perré on this subject will be presented on the show L'église< strong>, broadcast Wednesdays at 7 h 30 (EDT) on ICI Télé.

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